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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0335: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 15.5 × 23.3 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅛ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 18 (D36589).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
15.5 × 23.3 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West (TG0144)
Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West (TG0334)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1239 as 'Kirkstall Abbey' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, p.131, pl.71c; Brown, 1982, p.320

About this Work

This view of Kirkstall Abbey in Yorkshire is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number, as here, were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card (TG0334), including fifteen or so that also found a home in the Turner Bequest. Measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), they may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

The source for Girtin’s outline appears to have been an untraced drawing made by Moore on a trip to Yorkshire in the autumn of 1789, and the same sketch formed the basis of an earlier watercolour that Girtin executed for his patron around 1792–93 (TG0144). Certainly, there is no question of Girtin having visited Kirkstall by this date, and the suggestion that the artist based his composition on a work by Dayes is also unlikely (see TG0144 figure 1), as this too seems to have been based on Moore’s sketch. Having made a watercolour of the composition for Moore, Girtin used his copy of his patron’s sketch to create a rather different type of watercolour for Monro (TG0334), smaller and more sketch-like.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

1795 - 1796

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


1792 - 1793

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


1795 - 1796

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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